Category Archives: Emergency Dentist

Antibiotics for Tooth Infections

I have an abscessed tooth. I just want to go to my doctor and get an antibiotic, but my wife keeps insisting I see a dentist instead. Why can’t I just take an antibiotic like I would for any other type of medical infection?


Dear Matt,

Man holding his jaw in need of an emergency dentist

People often think antibiotics will heal an infection. This is a misconception. What the antibiotics do is help. They hold the infection at bay while your body fights the infection. Dental infections have an added complication. When the infection is in the pulp of your tooth it swells.

In the tooth, there’s nowhere for the swelling to go, so it spills out creating an abscess. Unfortunately, the pulp dies as a result. An antibiotic only works where there is blood flow. Once the pulp of the tooth dies, there is no longer any blood flow and no way to fight the infection, which grows and spreads even stronger.

A dentist has to go in and physically remove the infection with a procedure known as a root canal treatment. Often, this also requires a dental crown.

Tooth Infections are Dental Emergencies

You don’t want to put this off. A tooth infection is considered a dental emergency. Believe it or not, people still die from tooth infections even in the 21st century. If you think about how close your jaw is to your heart and brain, it makes sense how this can become life threatening quickly.

If Dentists Make You Nervous

If you have dental anxiety, you are not alone. Don’t let this keep you from getting your infection dealt with. I have a great solution for you which will give you a pain-free/stress-free appointment.

If you don’t have a regular dentist, look for a dentist who treats non-established patients in cases of emergencies, but look for one which also uses dental sedation. This is a simple pill you can take which will make your appointment super easy. In fact, most patients are so relaxed they completely sleep through the appointment.

This blog is brought to you by Libertyville Dentist Dr. David Potts.

Broke my wisdom tooth trying to pull it out

Man holding his jaw in need of an emergency dentistMy wisdom teeth have started to make my other teeth shift. I really don’t like going to the dentist, so I read about what to do on the Internet and decided to start pulling the teeth myself. I started with the bottom left tooth. I found some dental tools online and used one that looks similar to pliers. The tooth broke before I could get a good grip on it, so I didn’t really get to pull it out. Most of the tooth is left. Now I am scared to keep going. The tooth is starting to hurt. Now I figure that I should see a dentist, but I don’t know how to tell a dentist that I was trying to pull out my own wisdom teeth. Is it possible that if I do nothing the tooth will be okay? Syl

Syl – It is best to see a dentist right away. You may have damaged the wisdom tooth roots or nearby teeth.  A dentist who accepts emergency visits has scheduled time in his or her daily schedule to examine and treat urgent dental issues.

What Will an Emergency Dentist Do?

  • An emergency dentist will numb the area around the wisdom tooth and relieve the pain.
  • He or she will examine your tooth and x-ray it for its overall condition and for signs of trauma. It is possible that the adjacent teeth were damaged while trying to extract the wisdom tooth. So those teeth will also be examined for signs of trauma.
  • When there are problems with a wisdom tooth, it may be difficult to extract. If so, you will be referred to an oral surgeon for the extraction. Your remaining wisdom teeth will also be examined to determine their condition, their effect on your other teeth, and whether or not they need to be extracted.

Although you’re hesitant about visiting a dentist and explaining what happened, it’s best to seek care right away.

This post is sponsored by David Potts, DDS of Lake County Family Dental Care in Libertyville, IL.

Painful Pimple on Gums

I’m hoping you can help me. I’ve had a tooth hurting for a bit. I didn’t see anything wrong with it so didn’t worry. Today, I noticed a pimple on my gum. It is throbbing and hurts like you wouldn’t believe. My doctor thinks it is a dental issue. What do I do about it if I don’t have a dentist?


Dear Craig,

Woman grabbing her jaw in need of an emergency dentist

What looks like a pimple on your gums is actually an abscess. This means your tooth is infected and the infection is spilling out. You should be aware this is a dental emergency. If it’s not dealt with the infection will spread and can turn life threatening. The tooth pain you’ve been feeling was very likely the infection making itself known. Sometimes, there can be no visible decay and you still have some. This is why dentists will do x-rays during your checkups in order to make sure there’s no decay taking place internally.

You’ll need to have a root canal treatment done in order to save your tooth. I realize you don’t have a dentist. Fortunately, there are dentists willing to see non-established patients in the case of dental emergencies. Most of them will even see you that day because of the seriousness of the issue.

Often after a root canal treatment a tooth will need a dental crown. This is to protect the tooth as they can become brittle after treatment. If you like the emergency dentist, you can schedule follow up treatment with him or her. If you don’t, then you can try another dentist.

The important thing is to get this infection dealt with right away. After that you’ll have some breathing room.

A Big Reason People Avoid the Dentist

Most patients avoid the dentist because of serious trauma with a dentist in the past. Usually that was the result of a painful appointment mixed with an insensitive dentist. If that’s you, I have great news for you.

There are dentists who cater to patients with bad experiences. Often, to help with your anxiety, they can even provide some form of dental sedation. If anxiety has kept you out of the dental chair, you may want to find a dentist who treats emergencies as well as offers sedation.

Many patients who previously avoided the dentist at all costs find this simple solution to change their life.

This blog is brought to you by Libertyville Dentist Dr. David Potts.

Why Is My Tooth Turning Gray?

I had a toothache that drove me to the dentist. It takes a lot to get me there. I don’t have my own dentist so I went to one who sees people in emergencies. He said my symptoms meant that I cracked a tooth. He crowned it right then which I appreciated. The pain did stop, but now the tooth next to it has turned gray. I don’t know why. Any advice?


Dear Loriee,

Woman grabbing her jaw in need of an emergency dentist

If a tooth has turned gray, means the tooth is either dead or dying. There are a few reasons why this could happen. One of the most common reasons is an infected tooth. Another possibility is there was trauma to the tooth. You didn’t mention whether you recalled any injury which could have cracked your tooth.

If you did, then it’s possible you had trauma to both teeth, but there were no outward symptoms with the tooth which turned gray. Truthfully, this is the most likely scenario.

Another possibility is the dentist diagnosed and crowned the wrong tooth. The only real way to know this with certainty is to take the x-rays you had at your emergency dental appointment and get a second opinion from another dentist. If it was obvious, then you can get a refund on the crown you were already given in order to have the funds you need for the crown you should have received.

Finally, (and I’ll be the first to admit this is unlikely) you had the first tooth injured which is cracked. Then, at a later date, the second tooth was damaged elsewhere and now is showing symptoms. No matter which is the actual cause, the treatment for this is the same. You’ll need to get a root canal treatment and have that tooth crowned as well.

An Alternative to Treatment by Dental Emergency

It sounds like your dental anxiety is keeping you from getting regular dental care. This will keep you going from one emergency dental appointment to another. There is a way to get your dental care without the anxiety you normally feel.

Have you looked into seeing a sedation dentist? They can give you stress-free/pain-free appointments. The two most common types of dental sedation are nitrous oxide and oral conscious sedation. Nitrous is mostly used for mild anxiety. If you have serious anxiety, you’ll want to look into oral conscious sedation. You can check out our sedation dentistry page to learn more.

This blog is brought to you by Libertyville Dentist Dr. David Potts.

Saving a Knocked Out Tooth

I was at a hockey game and saw one of the young men lose a tooth. I always heard the mothers joking about needing a good dental plan if your son joins the team. It got me wondering. Can those teeth be saved or do they have to get replacements for all the teeth they have knocked out?


Dear Patty,

hockey player with missing tooth

There’s is always a possibility the tooth can be saved. However, conditions have to be in its favor. Here’s what you need to know:

This is a Dental Emergency

Call your dentist and let the office know what happened. It’s important you get treatment within 30 minutes. If they know you’re coming, they’ll be prepared for you when you get there and can start treatment right away. If you don’t have a dentist, then you need to call an emergency dentist. They’ll see non-established patients in cases such as this.

Only Hold the Tooth by the Crown

Never touch the root of the tooth. THat could damage it. Instead, hold it by the crown (the visible part of your tooth).

Keep the Tooth Moist

It’s very important the tooth be kept moist. If you have access to a glass of milk, you can place the tooth there. If that’s unavailable, then you can place the tooth gently between your cheek and gums. This should keep it moist enough.

Preventing Tooth Loss

Of course, ideally, you don’t want to lose a tooth. Here are some tips to make sure you keep those chompers for a long time:

  • Always wear a mouthguard during sports
  • See your dentist for regular checkups to prevent gum disease and decay
  • Brush and floss daily

Following these simple tips will help keep your smile bright and healthy for your lifetime.

Other Types of Dental Emergencies

A tooth being knocked out isn’t the only reason you’d need an emergency dental appointment. The most common reason is pain. This is your body’s way of warning you there’s an infection somewhere. Dental infections can’t just be dealt with by using a simple antibiotic. Your dentist has to get in there and physically remove the infected pulp. This requires a root canal treatment.

Another common issue is a broken or cracked tooth. Your dentist will place a dental crown over the damaged tooth in order to protect it.

It’s always best to know those things in order to be prepared ahead of time.

This blog is brought to you by Libertyville Dentist Dr. David Potts.

Disparity in Emergency Dental Care?

My husband and I ended up having simultaneous toothaches. We don’t usually go to a dentist, which is probably why we ended up with toothaches to begin with. We saw separate emergency dentists because we both wanted to be seen right away. Somehow, even though we had the same symptoms, I ended up with a root canal treatment and dental crown and he just received a simple filling. What’s up with the disparity of treatment? Did I get an overtreatment?


Dear Angela,

Woman grabbing her jaw in need of an emergency dentist

There are a lot of reasons for a toothache. It’s very likely you both received the perfect treatment from your emergency dentists because you had different causes for your pain. A root canal treatment and crown are usually the result of a dental infection. Your husband may have just needed a filling. I do realize he had a toothache as well. But, everyone has a different pain threshold. Maybe your problem had been brewing for a while, but your tolerance for pain is much better than your husband’s. That gave your decay more time to spread, reaching the pulp and requiring a root canal treatment.

I’m a tad concerned that neither of the dentists you went to seemed to have explained your diagnosis or why you needed the treatments they provided. This should be standard procedure. While I’m glad you received timely treatment when you needed it, I don’t think either of these dentists are ones you’d want to settle with as your permanent dentists.

The Easiest Way to Avoid Needing an Emergency Dentist

You mentioned that neither of you regularly see a dentist. In my experience, there are usually two reasons that people avoid seeing a dentist regularly. The first is financial. Without insurance, it can be hard to afford dental care. If you’ve found yourself in that situation, I’d do an internet search for an affordable dentist. They’re usually more willing to work with patients on payment options. But, be careful, don’t confuse cheap with affordable.

When talking about affordability, the sooner a problem is caught the less expensive the treatment. For instance, regular checkups catch decay early enough where you can have a small filling. If you wait, then the decay can become too large for a filling requiring a dental crown. If you wait even longer, it becomes an infection requiring a root canal treatment. If you wait longer, you’ll either lose the tooth requiring an expensive tooth replacement or lose your life because the infection spreads to your heart or brain.

The second reason people avoid the dentist is fear. Often dental anxiety stems from a traumatic experience in the dental chair as a child. If either of you get a tiny bit unsteady and nervous about the idea of a dental exam or if you have trouble getting numb, then you probably have some degree of dental anxiety.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution. Try going to a sedation dentist. This will give you a stress-free and pain-free appointment. Many who’ve feared the dentist for years find it completely changes their outlook and they’re able to go to the dentist without the fear they’ve battled for years.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. David Potts.

Can I Charge a Store for My Emergency Dentist?

I was at a store and grabbing an item when something fell from their top shelf and hit me in the mouth. I started bleeding and the manager was very apologetic. At the time I didn’t think anything was wrong with my teeth, but today one of my front teeth seems to be getting darker. What do I do? If I have to go to an emergency dentist will they bill the store?


Dear Laurie,

Libertyville Emergency Dentist

I’m sorry this happened to you. What you’ll need to do is contact the store manager and tell him or her what’s going on. It’s very likely they’ll be willing to pay the bill. Don’t put off getting treatment though. The darkening color is likely a gray color which means your tooth is either dead or dying.

You will need to get a root canal treatment and a dental crown. If you wait, you could lose the tooth. that will mean an extraction and tooth replacement. It’s much simpler (and less expensive) to repair a tooth than to replace it.

Who Pays for an Emergency Dentist?

As to who pays, unless the manager lets the emergency dentist know to bill the store he can only bill the person receiving the treatment. That doesn’t mean you can’t send them the bill if you have an agreement with them. Just be aware that you’re the one responsible for it.

If for some reason the store manager decides he’s not going to pay the bill you have a couple of choices. First, you could take them to court. Just be certain you get treatment in a timely manner. The court system will only charge the defendant for the initial treatment needed as a result of the accident. They won’t cover additional treatment required because you put off treatment.

A second option is to make a PR fuss. Call your local news station and let them know what happened. They may pay the bill to avoid the bad publicity.

Dental Crowns on Front Teeth

Because it’s a front tooth which was injured, you want to be careful what type of crown you have placed. Many dentists will place porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns no matter where the tooth is located. That is a mistake. Metal-based crowns are more opaque looking than your natural teeth. Plus, they all eventually develop a gray line at your gum line, which will be remarkably unattractive.

You’ll want to make sure whichever dentist you go to gives you an all-porcelain crown. They look much more natural and you’ll never have to worry about anything peeking out from your gums.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. David Potts.

Canker Sore or Cancer?

I have had a canker sore for ten days. I’ve never had one before but I hear they take a while to heal. But, now my sister has me worried. She said her best friend had what she thought was a canker sore, but it ended up being oral cancer. Is that really possible or is my sister just trying to freak me out? I tend to avoid the dentist, but this may send me to one.


Dear Elinor,

Woman grabbing her jaw in need of an emergency dentist
Canker Sore or Cancer?

Your sister is not pulling your leg. Oral cancer can be mistaken for a canker sore. So, how can you tell? I wouldn’t rush off to the emergency dentist just quite yet. They can take up to two weeks to heal. It’s no fun and they’re a bit on the painful side. If you go much past two weeks and it’s not healed, then a trip to the dentist would be in order.

The trick to a canker sore is getting by until it heals. The first thing I’d start doing is start using a rinse which will kill germs in order to help move the healing along. You can purchase Listerine, which works great or make a homemade rinse made of peroxide and water. Just mix it in a 1:1 ratio.

Other than that, all you can do is use some type of numbing medication. For canker sores, they come in two varieties The first is a pad that’s supposed to adhere to the sore and keep it covered to cut down on the pain. Truthfully, our mouths are so moist these are hard to keep on. Your better option would be the gel that comes out of a tube. These sometimes have an antiseptic in their ingredients which helps prevent it from infection.

How to Avoid Dental Emergencies

Someone cowering behind a wooden chair
Patients no longer have to hide from the dentist

You mentioned you tend to avoid going to the dentist. My experience has been those who avoid the dentist tend to do it for one of two reasons (sometimes both).

First, is financial. Dental care costs money. It’s not exactly like spending money on a movie or restaurant where you get to have fun. You’re spending money to have someone stick pointy instruments into your mouth. Because of that, some people don’t think of it as a priority. Others really struggle to come up with the money for a check-up.

If you’re the latter, start by trying for one check-up a year. It’s better than nothing and will actually save you money in the long run. For instance, with regular dental care, your dentist can tell you quite early when you’re developing decay. A simple filling costs hundreds less than a root canal treatment which you’ll need if the decay progresses too far. It costs thousands less than if you wait so long that the tooth can’t be saved. Then you’re talking about a tooth extraction and a tooth replacement, such as dental implants (which also means surgery). “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is a very true statement. Also, you should know that dentists will always check you for signs of oral cancer at your checkups.

The second reason people avoid tend to avoid the dentist is fear. This generally has its seeded beginning from a bad experience they had in their childhood. Now that they’re an adult and there’s no one to force them into going, it’s easier to skip. If that’s your situation, I’m about to change your life. I’d like you to try an appointment with a sedation dentist. They can give you a simple pill to take which completely relaxes you. You still have all your ability to talk and function if you want to, but you’re so relaxed you could actually sleep through the entire procedure. In fact, most patients do sleep through it.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. David Potts.

Loose Tooth from Toy Sword

My son and I were sword fighting with wooden swords. I took an injury to the mouth. I thought my lip was just swollen, but today one of my front teeth feels loose. I keep wiggling it to check and I’m almost positive. Can a dentist fix this? What if I don’t have a regular dentist?


Dear Mary,

Woman grabbing her jaw in need of an emergency dentist

Moms should receive medals for the injuries they sustain in the line of duty. The first thing I’d like you to do is stop wiggling your tooth. The more you wiggle it, the more damage you’re likely to do. Your teeth are held in place, not just by their roots, but also by ligaments. If you wiggle those ligaments too much, they can snap.

If you don’t have a regular dentist, then you’ll need to see an emergency dentist—the sooner the better. The dentist will need to splint your teeth together. Hopefully, it’s just a matter of the ligaments being stretched and needing time to heal.

If more damage was done, especially to the pulp of the tooth, then you’ll also need a root canal treatment and possibly a dental crown.

Importance of a Regular Dentist

I promise this isn’t a lecture. There are many legitimate reasons why you may not have a regular dentist at the moment. Maybe you’re new to town and haven’t had time to find one.

However, one of the main reasons I’ve seen that people avoid the dentist is because of bad experiences in the past. If you’ve struggled with that, it often leads to dental anxiety.

Often, I recommend dental sedation in those cases. Patients that try it find it completely changes their outlook. They’re finally able to get work done they’ve avoided for years. They feel healthier, too.

You may want to give it a try if that’s the reason you haven’t found a dentist yet. Either way, get that tooth looked at by a dentist soon.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. David Potts.

Emergency Dentist Accused Me of Being Crazy

I’m beyond frustrated and don’t know how to proceed. I’d gone to see an emergency dentist. He did an exam and x-rays then said I needed a root canal treatment. I scheduled and followed through with the procedure. It’s been some weeks later and I’m still in pain. I called him and he had me come back in. He re-did the x-rays and exam and said that the tooth was fine. I insisted it wasn’t and that I was in pain. He insisted there’s nothing wrong with the tooth and gave me a referral to a neurologist. I left, still in pain, feeling like he was saying it was all in my head. I’m not crazy. My tooth hurts.

Karen D.

Dear Karen,

Female Patient in pain needing an emergency dentist
Do you need an emergency dentist?

I’m sorry you felt like your emergency dentist dismissed your concerns. While it sounds like he is missing some chairside manner (and possibly a sensitivity chip in his brain), I don’t think he was calling you crazy or thinking the pain was in your head. Sometimes nerve damage can occur which can mimic the pain you’re having. A neurologist could help diagnose if that’s the issue. That being said, I wouldn’t consider a neurologist the next logical step.

Other Options the Emergency Dentist Could Have Suggested

  • Sinus Problems: The next thing I’d check is if you’re having sinus problems. The roots of our teeth are very close to our sinus cavities. You may have noticed in the past when you had a sinus infection or a very bad cold that the upper parts of your gums hurt. This is because sinus pressure can sometimes mimic tooth pain. It can feel awful too. If you’ve had a cold, I’d try a decongestant to see if that helps or ask your doctor to do an x-ray.
  • Second Opinion: It’s also possible the emergency dentist was rushed when he re-checked you and missed something on your x-ray. Or possibly, he didn’t want to admit the root canal didn’t work. Though, even if that were the case, it wouldn’t necessarily mean he did anything wrong. Root canals sometimes fail even when everything is done correctly. However, a second opinion never hurts.
  • Referred tooth pain: I don’t know how extensive his x-rays were. If he limited the range it could actually be another tooth that’s the real problem at this point and you’re experiencing referred pain. Again, a second opinion should clear that up.

If you’re in pain, don’t give up. There are dentists out there who will take you seriously and work to find the problem. If he missed something, you don’t want the problem to get so bad you end up with a tooth extraction. Dentists, like the rest of the world, are human and sometimes make mistakes. Don’t be embarrassed to bug them until they figure out what’s going on. But, if he’s not understanding, you may have to bug a different practitioner.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. David Potts.